Regional report: Valley city evolution

| Print |  Email
Articles - October 2012
Monday, September 24, 2012

 

Salem: A city in search of itself

1012 ValleyCityEvolution 04
Above: James Kohn is co-owner of Wandering Aengus Ciderworks, one of a growing number of small, value-added food and beverage processors springing up in the Salem area. 
Below: Salem architect Alan Costic (left) and property owner Eric Kittleson are among a group of downtown business leaders proposing an ambitious garden-based streetscape project for the central core. The project is intended to help revitalize downtown and make the city a destination.
//Photos by Eric Näslund
1012 ValleyCityEvolution 06

In the basement of one of Salem’s historic buildings, Carole Smith, a downtown property owner, is talking about one of the main problems facing Oregon’s second-largest city. “We’re always saying: ‘Portland does this, Portland does that.’ We need to come up with our own solutions.”

Forty miles from PDX, Salem suffers a bit from low self-esteem and dependency issues, especially where its bigger, brasher neighbor to the north is concerned. But in a city where the economy has yet to improve — the unemployment rate is 9.6% — there are signs Salem is ready to carve out its own identity, one based on the city’s unique assets. Two very different initiatives — a city loan program that so far has funded value-added food businesses and an ambitious streetscape plan — are indicative of this approach.

Home to NORPAC Foods, Truitt Brothers and other food-processing giants, Salem is now supporting smaller specialty food and beverage companies that capitalize on local, sustainable food trends. A case in point is the Fairview Urban Renewal Area small-business pilot program, an initiative that offers loans to existing manufacturers in need of capital to grow, then forgives up to 70% of the loan in exchange for job creation. So far, the program has awarded loans to three food and beverage companies, says Wales, the city’s urban development director.

“Our goal is to grow the next Kettle Chips,” he says, referring to the Salem-born company, now owned by Diamond Foods. One potential candidate is Wandering Aengus Ciderworks. The artisan cider company grossed $500,000 in 2011; that figure is expected to exceed $1 million in 2012, says marketing director and co-owner James Kohn. For his part, Kohn would like to see Salem convert some of the surrounding grass-seed farms to specialty apple orchards. “We’re trying to sustain growth in locally sourced products,” he says.

Across town, business owners in the central core are working on another Salem-sourced project, a streetscape plan built around the vision of Elizabeth Lord and Edith Schryver, renowned garden designers who lived in Salem in the early 1900s. Linking Riverfront Park to the capitol, the gardenscape would put a local stamp on the downtown revitalization trend, says Eric Kittleson, president of the board of the Downtown Partnership. By drawing tourists who visit the Oregon Garden in Silverton, and helping Salem Hospital and Willamette University attract high-caliber employees, the landscaped downtown would also “be a huge driver for the Salem economy,” says Smith. Supporters hope to tap urban-renewal funds for the project, says Kittleson.

So far, more traditional downtown drivers have stalled. The Rivers, a high-end condo building, has sold only a few units; the long-anticipated mixed-use redevelopment of the old Boise Cascade mill is on hold. “We don’t have much to comment on at this time,” says Jason Tokarski, VP of Mountain West Investment, which purchased the site in 2007.

The city has other Salem-branded projects in the works, including putting the finishing touches on a unique 100-acre wetland in the 650-acre Mill Creek Corporate Center, the largest industrial site on the I-5 corridor between Sacramento and Canada, according to Wales. As the city moves ahead with these and other strategies, business leaders are trying to keep one guiding principle in mind. “We shouldn’t be advertising we’re close to Portland,” says Ray Burstedt, president of SEDCOR, a local economic development nonprofit. “We need to focus on who we are.”



 

More Articles

Downtime with Jill Nelson

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

Live, Work, Play wit the CEO of Ruby Receptionists.


Read more...

Reader Input: Rx for Health Care

July/August 2015
Wednesday, July 15, 2015

We asked readers how Obamacare has impacted their business.


Read more...

Staffing Challenge

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY KIM MOORE

A conversation with Greg Lambert, president of Mid Oregon Personnel Services.


Read more...

Child care challenge

September 2015
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
0927OHSUhealthystarts-thumbBY KIM MOORE AND LINDA BAKER

Child care in Oregon is expensive and hard to find. We delved into the numbers and talked to a few executives and managers about day care costs, accessibility and work-life balance.


Read more...

Big Trouble in China?

Guest Blog
Tuesday, August 18, 2015
0818-wellmanthumbBY JASON NORRIS | CFA

Earlier this month, the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) announced they were going to devalue their currency, the Renminbi. While the amount of the targeted change was to be roughly 2 percent, investors read a lot more into the move. The Renminbi had been gradually appreciating against the U.S. dollar (see chart) as to attempt to alleviate concerns of being labeled a currency manipulator.


Read more...

10 Innovators in Rural Health

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY AMY MILSHTEIN | PHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN

Telemedicine, new partnerships and real estate diversification make health care more accessible in rural Oregon.


Read more...

The Private 150: From Strength to Strength

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY KIM MOORE

Revenues in Oregon's private, for profit sector maintained solid growth as the economy continued to rebound.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS